Using Coh-Metrix to Compare Cohesion Measures between the United States Senators John McCain and Barack Obama

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Abstract: This investigation explores and analyzes speeches by John McCain and Barack Obama, who were the candidates of the United States Presidential election 2008. Ten speeches by each speaker are in a non-biased way selected from the year 2007 from their official websites when they were senators of Arizona and Illinois respectively. The analyses of the speeches concern cohesive measures and are not about what they say in their political occupation. This approach was selected to see if there are any comparisons and/or contrasts in terms of cohesion between the speakers or within their own set of speeches. The website Coh-Metrix has been used and out of it nine measures have been selected and analyzed in detail. This study looks at the average words per sentence, the average syllables per word, the Flesch Reading Ease score, the average concreteness for content words, the average minimum concreteness for content words, the mean number of higher level constituents, the type-token ratio, the syntactic structure similarity, and the average number of negations. The two speakers had overall very similar results except for a few standard deviations as in for example the average concreteness and average minimum concreteness for content words results. However, eight out of the nine measurement numbers were non-significant according to a t-test for non-matched observations and/or a chi-square goodness-of-fit test. One measurement, the average number of negation expressions per 1000 words, was nonetheless highly significant according to a t-test and chi-square test, as Obama used about twice as many negations in comparison to McCain. This study shows that the speakers’ twenty speeches are similar in terms of structure and cohesion except for the fact that Obama uses more negation expressions compared to McCain. These results do not, however, necessarily say anything else about the speakers and/or speeches. Keywords: cohesion, cohesion markers, cohesion measures/measurements, Coh-Metrix, speeches, texts

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